Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My own microprocessor

I’ve decided to build the microprocessor described in CODE. In that book, Petzold describes the development of a processor pretty much from scratch. He describes everything but the control logic, so that’ll give me a nice exercise to start out with. Follow along for the non-control logic (with a few tweaks along the way), and build the control logic from scratch. Once I do that, I’ll feel confident enough to build the second version from scratch, to my own design.

Petzold describes his circuits in terms of relays, with a control panel made of switches. Obviously I’m going to use TTLish ICs for the circuits, but I still need some sort of control panel. If the 7-segment LED circuit taught me anything, it’s that switches need debouncing if they’re going to have a prayer of working properly. The most complicated front panel in Petzold’s book has 27 switches on it, each of which would presumably need its own debouncing circuit. No thank you. Furthermore, that front panel is eventually used for loading in programs. Toggling programs in may have been fun in 1972, but I really don’t have the patience for it today.

Instead, I’m going to use an AVR for the front panel. I’ll have a program which displays a UI running on my Mac. It’ll talk to the AVR via RS232, and will tell the AVR which ports to enable/disable/read. Eventually I’ll write something which uses that same interface to “toggle” in new programs. All will be sweetness and light.

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